Writing Through the Ages

So. Let’s pretend we already had the conversation about how long it’s been since I did a post (on anything, but particularly on here) Input quirky banter about long absences and fond hearts and blah blah blah.

Right. So last week Kate gave us a lovely post about what we’re looking for in YA books, as a publisher. So in connected vein, I’m going to talk about an important part of writing your next YA masterpiece. The art of writing characters who come across as the age you intend them to be.

I’m sure we’ve had the experience of a character, in whatever medium, not acting their age. A ten-year-old who suddenly talks like a college student or a college student with the mental acuity of a ten-year-old. And while absolutely a character can have those things, as a flaw/bonus, things need to be properly grounded.

And now I’m going to miraculously poof out five ways to do that.

  1. Read. No really. Go find a book written for the age group of the character who needs to carry your story. Are you writing mid-grade, about middle school kids? Find books meant for middle school kids and books about middle school kids.
  2. Listen to real people. Find a popular youtube channel, since there are kids of all ages out there making their own videos. Watch a few and see how they talk, what their interests are, all of that. Have a friend with a kid in your age range? Maybe take your friend and their kid to a movie (this means you don’t have to be responsible for the small human, and you can see how that parent/child dynamic works too). Take your college-age niece to lunch. And then recognize that all of that is how they behave with you and not how they’ll behave with their peers, etc.
  3. Be prepared for rewrites. As you are not actually–presumably–a teenager or a ten-year-old, there will be moments when you fail, particularly in dialogue, and have to change it.
  4. Go with your gut. If you read something and it sounds wrong, or makes it hard to read, don’t do that thing. Simple, right?
  5. However much market research you’ve done, do more. Read more. Watch more. Write more. You’ve got a story to tell, so tell it.

Because everything else can wait until after it’s written.

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